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The ability to create attention grabbing graphic design is a skill that’s in high demand in many industries for websites, logos, advertisements, banners, or videos. You don’t even need to be a Photoshop expert to create engaging and shareable content. Thanks to the need for more engaging content on the web, you can use an editing tool like Shutterstock Editor to create professional and shareable assets with a few clicks. But even with these tools, a foundational knowledge of what works best for visuals is important and helpful. Here are the most important elements of graphic design.


The goal of any design is to emphasize the most crucial elements. Contrast occurs when two elements are juxtaposed. Contrast brings attention to the most important part of your design and helps present information in a digestible manner. In short, contrast makes your design stand out.  Some examples of contrast:

  • Thick and thin fonts
  • Dark and light colors
  • Modern and traditional styles
  • Rough vs. smooth textures

As with any element of design, contrast should be executed strategically, to make designs more effective. Balanced contrast enhances your image, but too much contrast causes a jarring effect.

basic elements of graphic design
Click to see the contrast in fonts for this social media Editor Template.


One of the fundamental ways to make better designs is using alignment. Alignment enhances your designs by creating an orderly and sharp appearance. Properly aligning elements of your design makes your design look clean and reduces sloppiness. If you place elements randomly, it looks scattered. While you don’t have to center-align everything, using alignment as a general goal and guide will make your designs better.

Alignment makes this template look clean. You can edit this social media template here.


The closeness of design elements helps guide the viewer’s eye to the most important parts of your message. Proximity creates organization by grouping similar elements together, or at least in a way that makes sense. For example, you might cluster related elements together to declutter your overall design. Proximity doesn’t necessarily need to be placement – in can refer to connecting elements by font, color, and size.

Placing the messaging in the upper right corner makes the message stand out. You can edit this presentation template here.


Repeating elements of graphic design play a similar role as repetitious hooks in music. Just as a catchy song is designed to grab attention, a design with repetitive elements makes a bold and eye-catching statement. Consistency in colors, shapes, and text draw attention to your design.

This presentation template uses the same shape to highlight what to expect in the slide. You can edit this template here.

Blank space

One of the most important aspects of graphic design doesn’t require fancy design tools. Sometimes what your design needs is for certain things to be left out. While most of your time will be dedicated to filling empty space with text, colors, and images, there will come a time when you need strategically utilize blank space  Negative space can add to your design and highlight important information.

Googles does an amazing job of using blank space on their home page design to focus on search. Image from Google.

When you combine core graphic design principles with helpful design tools, you can create stunning posters, social network banners, email newsletters, and event announcements Make sure to keep those five principles in mind when working on your next design project.